Russia will continue talks with Georgia next week to end a dispute that could wreck Moscow’s hopes of gaining membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Russia's chief WTO negotiator Maxim Medvedkov said on Friday.
Informal consultations between Russian negotiators and WTO members started on Wednesday in Geneva.
"Negotiations are taking place on a non-stop basis, and they will be continued next week," Medvedkov said.
Russia has been in membership talks with the 153-nation WTO for 17 years and remains the only major economy still outside the organization. The approval of all member states is needed before any country can be admitted and Georgia has yet to acquiesce.
"Yesterday, Georgia said during our talks that it fully supported offers of Swiss mediation and suggested we support them too. We are considering this and will give an answer in the next few days," Medvedkov said declining to disclose details of the Swiss proposal. Russia could decide on the offer by end of next week, he said.
"In order for Russia to join the WTO, Georgia has to vote in favor of Russia or keep silent at an appropriate formal working group meeting on November 10-11 and at a ministerial conference," he said.
If the ministerial conference, scheduled for December 15-17, approves procedural documents on Russia's WTO accession, Moscow would become a full member of the world trade club 30 days after ratification.
Russia and Georgia fought a five-day over South Ossetia in 2008. Fighting broke out when Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia in a bid to bring it under control. Russia then recognized the two republics’ independence, a move condemned by the West. Tbilisi severed diplomatic relations with Moscow following the war.
Apart from Georgia, Russia needs to conclude import duty requirements with WTO members, said Medvedkov.
The European Commission had been unhappy with Russia's new rules introduced from 2011 for the industrial assembly of foreign cars in the country. The EC insisted that Russia should lift its requirement for foreign car makers to assemble 300,000 cars in Russia annually and have 60 percent of their components produced in Russia, because it would mean lower imports of car components to Russia.
Last week the EC said it agreed a deal on industrial assembly issues with Moscow. In case of a sharp decline of car component exports to Russia, Moscow would offer reduced duties or tariff quotas for duty-free imports.